Judge Jean Maurer

Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Jean Maurer

The judge grew up in Hanford, a small town in the San Joaquin Valley in central California. Her family nickname when she was very young was "swift-and-sure." Her parents and her two brothers recognized that she moved with speed and determination as a child. These characteristics define, as well, her approach to her work as an attorney and now as a judge.

She attended the University of California at Berkeley during the turbulent late 1960s and graduated in 1971. She remained in the Bay Area and entered Santa Clara Law School. Immediately following graduation in 1974, she moved to Oregon, where she was hired as a deputy district attorney for the Marion County District Attorney's Office. Two years later, she moved to Portland to work for the Multnomah County District Attorney's office.

In 1980 she entered private practice with Bill Keys, then recently retired from the Circuit Court and later a Senior Judge, and his partner, Ernest Kissling. In 1988 she returned to the Multnomah County District Attorney's office. Eight years later, in February 1996, she was appointed to the bench.

She believes that her prior criminal and civil experience enabled her to move into the judicial docket with a certain degree of ease. "If anything, it was seeing myself as a judge that was then most challenging." On one of her first days on the bench, she recalls responding to the comments of the defendant in a criminal case with the words "thank you, your honor." The look of surprise on his face was matched by her own. "Old habits die hard," she says.

Judge Maurer says that her greatest concern upon leaving practice and becoming a judge was that it would be isolating. A self-described "people-person," she overcomes the propensity for judicial work to become isolating by staying involved in many outside activities. These have included the Gus Solomon Inn of Court, an adjunct professor at Lewis & Clark Law School, and membership on various law-related committees. One of her proudest accomplishments was serving as coach of mock trial high school teams for ten years.

Her docket on the circuit court is varied, and is just the way she likes it. "The expression, 'variety is the spice of life,' certainly applies to my work as a judge," she notes. She feels that each case brings challenges that might diminish in importance were she to have a steady diet of only one kind of case. Moreover, it presents her with the opportunity to continue meeting new people and their lawyers, which staves off feelings of isolation from the bar and public.

She enjoys her work and likes the requirement of neutrality. "Being in the middle is a good fit for me," she says. Although she enjoyed the role of advocate for the 22 years before she became a judge, the opportunity to be a judge and to view the situation from a different perspective has been liberating. "To rework an old phrase, the key to being a good judge is to recognize the seriousness of the cases that come before you without taking yourself seriously."

Originally authored by Doug Bray and printed in the February 2002 Multnomah Lawyer
Updated for the Internet in 2012